How is Salesforce Taking on AI: a look at Einstein at Salesforce World Tour Boston
On April 3rd, Amalgam Insights attended Salesforce World Tour 2019 in Boston. Salesforce users may know this event as an opportunity to meet with their account managers and catch up with new functionalities and partners without having to fly to San Francisco and navigate through the colossus that is Dreamforce.
Salesforce also uses this tour as an opportunity to present analysts with the latest and greatest changes in their offerings. Amalgam Insights was interested both in learning more about Salesforce’s current positioning from a data perspective, including the vendor’s acquisition of Mulesoft as well as its progression in both the Einstein Analytics and Einstein Platform in providing value-added insights and artificial intelligence to Salesforce clients.
The event started with a keynote by Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet, who set up the event as a “Celebration of Trailblazers.” The keynote included a combination of focus areas across cultural goals, customer successes, and new Salesforce functionalities. Highlights of the keynote included Prophet’s highlights of Salesforce’s investment in Per Scholas, a non-profit focused on provided free IT training to close the gap in technical talent, and the support of PepUp Tech, an organization focused on improving proportionate representation in tech.
In addition, this discussion included mentions around the gender pay equality, a carbon neutral cloud, and the 1:1:1 philanthropic model of pledging 1% of equity, time, product, and profit back to their community that Salesforce promotes (and that Amalgam Insights endorses and has followed from inception).
This keynote also included product demonstrations by Senior Director of Product Marketing Ally Witherspoon and Vice President Anna Rosenman in demonstrating Salesforce’s Customer 360, Einstein Voice (a relatively new service that provides voice-driven navigation through Salesforce records and takes dictation for hands-free environments such as driving), Einstein Platform, Commerce Cloud, integration, and additional capabilities culminating in a delicious Ben and Jerry’s branded demo to show how a “flavor lab” would work in creating your own ice cream flavors.
If only more software demos had such delicious results…
I also met with multiple Salesforce executives to get a better sense of the current state of Salesforce’s analytics and AI initiatives. In meeting with Product Management Director, Mayukh Bhaowal, I got to learn about Salesforce’s focus on increasing access to machine learning-based services, which was accentuated in mid-April announcements to announce the launches of new Einstein Platform Services including
- Einstein Translation (in pilot), which will allow admins to translate Salesforce fields via drag-and-drop.
- Einstein OCR (in pilot), which will allow Salesforce users to search documents through Optical Character Recognition. Salesforce is focused on developing AI to remove the mundane obstacles that get in the way of real work.
- Einstein Prediction Builder (in General Availability) to help Salesforce admins build machine learning models to create custom predictions for any Salesforce field.
- Einstein Predictions Services (in pilot), which expands Salesforce’s machine learning reach from Einstein Discovery to any third-party system where Salesforce can access data.
In addition. I met with Phil Cooper, Vice President and Product GM of Einstein, and Tim Bezold, Director of Product Management for Einstein Analytics to discuss the growth of Salesforce Einstein Analytics and Platform. One of the key facts that surprised me was that Salesforce data was tripling on a year-over-year basis, which affects both the need for analytics and for AI-driven automation across all of Salesforce. The massive data demands of its customers, as well as data access provided by the likes of Mulesoft and the location-based data that MapAnything will provide (based on Salesforce’s April 17th agreement to acquire), push Salesforce to continue driving the practical AI innovation that is being sought in business circles.
This point is important. Amalgam Insights has been focused on the importance of AI in pushing the Role-Based Expert Enhancement concept that we introduced in 2017 with the focus of improving productivity and data access for subject matter experts that improve business outcomes. However, AI, machine learning, and data science startups have largely been overly focused on algorithmic development for its own sake and left enterprises with a giant case of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) as they wonder if AI will be ethical, how quickly it will displace jobs, and how to actually use AI in a practical fashion. Salesforce is quickly solving many of these problems in 2019 by incrementally adding AI to its services in a way that will allow millions of Salesforce users to integrate AI into their current jobs on trusted data rather than providing questions of whether the AI is relevant or transparent.
(Anecdotally, I’ve never met a sales or service employee who felt cheated that they were not doing enough manual data entry rather than working on the conversations, problem-solving, and actions that help customers.)
In this light, Salesforce’s progress in Einstein is important in introducing AI to millions of users in terms of providing practical and functional services and then providing Salesforce-based admins and developers with the tools to support these capabilities. This message was both consistent and clear at Salesforce World Tour 2019 in Boston.
Amalgam Insights expects based on the combination of presentations, executive discussions, and customer discussions at this event that Salesforce’s AI roadmap will continue to push for the combination of automation, trust, and scale that has defined the use of Salesforce.